The Advent of the Super Farmer
With the dawn of the 21st century, a curious phenomenon has been observed in agribusiness worldwide. In developed nations farms are growing in size while land under cultivation is shrinking. In developing nations the farm size is decreasing while productivity is increasing. In the US alone the number of farms in 2016 were 8000 less than in 2015 resulting in a loss of cultivating land of a million acres. And yet the average size of farmland increased by 1 to be a whopping 442 acres per farm. However in India the average size of farmland has been steadily decreasing from 1971 and today is around a paltry 2.8 acres a farm. These curious trends are a result of a complex of factors ranging from industrialization to urbanization, and though prima facie they may indicate an agrarian crisis, the reality is far removed from that hypothesis. However, the uniting factor in these diverse findings is the rise of the farmer.
In developed nations Urbanization has led to farmers seeking urban environments and jobs. This is prompted by better opportunities and returns in cities. The result is that farmers who stay buy a bigger stake in the farmlands left vacant. Couple this with a decrease in the average age of the farmer and you have aggressive buyers who will see sought out returns only by increase the volume of their produce. This entails the buying of more agricultural land. Thus in developed Nations the average size of farmlands will keep increasing till it stabilizes. And this prompts the farmers to become fewer in number but with stronger assets and more value.
In developing Nations particularly in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa, the size of the average farm holding is very small. Furthermore there is a huge decrease in the number of farms caused by farmers seeking Urban centers for jobs and sustenance. In India alone close to 2000 farms close each day.
However these are not bleak predictions. This is merely a result of the population surge which is the byproduct of development. As Healthcare improves and as amenities offered improve the average life expectancy goes up. This means more people. This means further division of farms amongst children. This means many extremely small and vulnerable holdings will seize to be productive. However, smaller farms, adequately supported by modern technologies and sustainable agriculture practices, have been found to be more productive than larger farms. And that, too, is a byproduct of development. The average yield of an Indian wheat farm has gone up from under 800 Kg per hectare in 1948 to 3145 Kg per same hectare in 2014.
With developing countries being extremely dependent on their agricultural sector, farmers are being introduced to the latest trends and technologies in their produce enabling them to keep up production for a far increased population with less area under cultivation. This results in increased national productivity (due to the small size of the farms) while enabling the farmer to arrest the dwindling acreage under cultivation and eventually increase it as the technology revolution in agriculture makes larger farms more cost effective. Now with courses offering to teach sustainable agriculture cropping up in nations such as India, there is a rise in the number of urban individuals opting for agri – entrepreneurship causing an increase in agri tech startups. With increase in social entrepreneurship in agriculture there is a proliferation of agri incubation centers across large developing nations such as India and they promise to herald in a new era for the farmer and the farms.